Reuters are reporting that François Hollande is treking round France under the pretext of the upcoming Cantonal Elections in order to establish himself as a slow burning candidiate for 2012. He already has a poll lead over Sarzkozy in a theortical second round run off, but then so does every serious PS candidiate such is his unpopularity.
The DSK bandwagon is surely going to run out of steam eventually and both Aubry and Royal have poplularity problems so maybe Hollande is well placed.
Following heavy criticism in the press and from individuals in Tunisia and Egypt in relation to the close links between themselves and the old regimes the French Government has now announced it will be shipping aid directly to rebel held territory in Libya. This kind of direct interference is new from a European power and follows murmurings in Britain about a possible no fly zone.
Is this just a desperate and transparent attempt to make up for the revelations concerning Alliot-Marie or is it a genuine attempt to foster links with the new democratic forces in North Africa? Either way Sarkozy is still trying to politically revive his Club Med ambitions of a few years ago. If he is to maintain French influence in the area it is clear that Sarkozy has rather a lot of work to do in the coming weeks and will be competing directly with the UK and the USA both of whom also have some making up to do after years of propping up rather dubious regimes in the area.
On March 20th the French will be going to the polls in the Cantonal Elections , which decide who runs the départements. In all likelihood the UMP will take a pasting but it will be hard for the Left to excede its impressive victory in 2008 where it gained a total of 185 seats across the country and took control of 10 départements. Worth keeping an eye on are the départements of Jura, Côte-d’Or and Hautes-Alpes all of which the left only need one extra seat to take control.
The key question is what impact the results if any will have on the 2012 elections. Governments generally take a kicking in local elections all over the world but for the PS these elections are all about momentum. Can they keep Sarkozy and the UMP in a continued state of crisis? It already appears that the President has circled his wagons around the Élysée Palace so what more can he do should the UMP fail badly at the polls in a few weeks time?
The scores in the 2008 were:
1st Round – Socialists 26.7% (total Left 47.8%) UMP 23.6% (Total Right 40.7%)
2nd Round – Socialists 35.1% (Total Left 51.1%) UMP 26.8% (Total Right 44.2%)
Observers will also be looking out for the performance of the National Front, under its new leader, to see if they can advance from a lowly 4.85% last time round.
The new government of France in full:
Prime Minister François Fillon
Foreign & European Affairs Alain Juppé
Defence Gérard Longuet
Environment & Transport Nathalie Kosciusko-Morizet
Justice Michel Mercier
Interior & Immigration Claude Guéant
Finance & Economy Christine Lagarde
Employment & Health Xavier Bertrand
Education Luc Chatel
Budget François Baroin
Higher Education & Research Valérie Pécresse
Agriculture Bruno Le Maire
Culture Frédéric Mitterrand
Solidarity & Social Cohesion Roselyne Bachelot-Narquin
Cities & Towns Maurice Leroy
Sport Chantal Jouanno
Relations with Parliament Patrick Ollier
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So Alliot-Marie has been ditched and the controversial Alain Juppé has taken her place at the Foreign Office and his place at defense has gone to president of the UMP group in the Senate Gérard Longuet. The difference between the two being that Longuet was found not guilty in his corruption trial Juppe on the other hand was found very much guilty.
So what does this all mean for Sarkozy? The inclusion of Juppe and Longuet hardly helps to cleanse the public image of the UMP. By appointing Claude Guéant to the Ministry of the Interior, his former Chief of Staff from the good old days when he himself was Interior Minister, Sarkozy has not distanced himself from his own cabal , how different to the early days of his presidency when he was confident enough to include figures like Bernard Kouchner in the government.
The polls will tell us whether this enforced reshuffle will help the fading hyper-president.
Rumours abound today that Foreign Minister Michèle Alliot-Marie is about to leave her post. The timing of this could hardly be any worse with Sarkozy struggling rebuild the popularity of him and his party in the run to 2012 and the crisis in the Middle East, a crisis in which Sarkozy no doubt has intentions of attempting some kind of global leadership in response.
Will she be pushed or step aside of her own will either way this is a substantial blow for the UMP and Sarkozy.
TV personality and founder of the modestly titled Nicholas Hulot Foundation, Nicholas Hulot has had his hat thrown into the ring for the Green nomination for 2012 in all likelihood he will be a serious contender against Les Verts leader and MEP Eva Joly. He currently enjoys a substantial poll lead over her.